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Kerala Association of professional social workers (KAPS)
Future of Social Work: Challenges & Opportunities

Sonny Jose Ph.D.
Loyola College

Ajith S.
Management Consultant – OD
Hages Business Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

“Change is the only truth!” is an old adage that has transcended and withstood the challenge of time. Changes world around are happening progressively at a faster pace with each passing year. The amount of human activity and the magnitude of greenhouse gases being created within the last one human generation exceeds that entire amount that was possibly generated during the past 10000 generations (Guggenheim, 2006). So unfathomable is the impact of human development on the world we live in. This presents the world innumerable and diverse problems.

To further complicate things the world has just gotten more complex.The regional economies, societies, and cultures have become integrated through a globe-spanning network of communication and trade. Globalisation is mostly used to refer specifically to economic globalization: the integration of national economies into the international economy through trade, foreign direct investment, capital flows, migration, and the spread of technology. However, globalisation is usually recognised as being driven by a combination of economic, technological, sociocultural, political, and biological factors; it can also refer to the transnational circulation of ideas, languages, or popular culture through acculturation.

Ongoings Globally

A quick scan ofof the newspapers over the last three months highlight a host of events that seemingly seem to make news. A sprinkling of the same follows:

“spirallinglabour costs force Toyota to closed down its Australian operations;” its ramification:50430 including those working in allied industries unemployed.

“Ford, Nissan, Toyota, Renault, Honda to start new plants or shiftmanufacturingbases to Big Emerging Markets (BEMs);”ramifications:China, Brazil and India (the BEMs), with lower labour cost and lenient pollution standards; the bottom line ‘increased environmental pollution’

“Coca Cola forced to close down their Bottling Unit at Plachimada, Palakkad, Kerala as the local community moves Supreme Court over ‘overexploitation of water resources’ and alleged ‘drying upwater resources’ and ‘pollution of drinking water’; ramification: people movements and local self-governments (LSGs) force MNCs to streamline operations

“China destroyed as much as 30% of its forest cover during the period 2011-12 (UNDP Report, 2013). As if a backlash, US, Europe and China experience intense winters freezing the lakes in California and waterfalls in Colorado; ramifications: global warming likely to cause natural disasters

Action Forum, objects to the commissioning of the Greenfield Airport at Aranmula;” “The Aranmula Temple thanthri refuses to reduce the height of the traditional temple flag post;” ramifications: people movements and local self governments (LSGs) assert on MNCs thanks to the devolution of power after the Pnachayathi Raj Bill of 1992.

Christine Lagarde(IMF, 2014) observes on the “ever widening gap between the rich and poor”, and forewarns of populationagingand its impact on productivity of India and China; ramifications: radical change in global demographic profiles affect the economic health of nations.

The India Today Sex Survey 2013 suggests that the new women asserts her body (IT, 2013); woman more liberated and extramarital affairs treble; corporate promotions in Western India quid pro quo on sexual favours; implications: possible escalation in the number of sexual harassment litigations as well as marital disharmony

“inactivity causes cancer and obesity in general population; ramifications: higher incidence of lifestyle diseases (morbidity)” (The Guardian Daily, 31 Jan2014)

The Dimensions of Globalisation

Globalisationis an all pervading phenomena with far reaching impact on multiple dimensions – political, social, economic, technological and cultural.The discussion will perhaps help the reader appreciate complexities involved – the multidimensionality in terms of causation as well as the interconnectedness of ongoing events.


Any discussion on the political dimension, warrants a discussion on the geopolitical as it need to consider influences – national and international. International conventions assume relevance considering the fact that almost all nations subscribe to some particular convention. International conventions such as the International conventions on climate change (ICCC) warrant signatory countries to bring in mandate to develop instruments to prevent pollution, preserve forest cover, preserve and protect biodiversity as well as preserve water sources all of which are inalienable to human existence and continuation. Kyoto Protocol mandates setting up definite standards for preventing pollution There are other conventions such that were convened and endorsed through various conferences on development such as the WCD at Beijing and later at Cairo. These conventions argue for the rights of women and have been instrumental in the fight against female genital mutilation (FGM), violence against women, as well as in arguing for better service and working conditions. In India we found very strong clamour by women’s groups to negotiate for the Amendment 376.

Other conventions related to children have made nations more child-friendly.Clearly, the pollution standards have been major consideration in setting up industries. This is perhaps why large number of manufacturing bases of car majors have been shifted to the BEMs – India, China and Brazil – thereby deprive many of the first world countries of employment opportunities, as evident in the case of the Toyota pull out from Australia. In the state of Kerala, this has been pro-acted upon, with the major source of employment being in the service sector – IT, ITes, and Tourism – which have been less machine intensive. Social work in former context will have to be on retraining and rehabilitation those thrown out of employment. Whereas, in the service industry context social work would have issues of managing a qualified work force and retaining talent as in HR. There have been instances where industries have polluted or ‘overexploited’ natural resources, in the context of industrialization. Here Corporate Social Responsibility becomes the focus, wherein the company is made to share a part of its profits on with the local community by way of social projects, income generation programs (IGP), developmental activities or even local employment. In child-friendly societies it is the prerogative of social work to ensure compulsory free education and engage in areas such as life skills education. In communities lacking with the same social work engagement would be in advocacy and providing support – financial or volunteers – to create an ambience for child-friendliness. In societies which lack in such enactments it become the prerogative to campaign and influence policy with governments toward education, nutrition and child rights and freedom from exploitation and abuse. The Child Rights movement that shaped in the late 1990s have made remarkable leeway with the initiation of the CHILDLINE that works for children in distress or in need of care and support, the Right to (Free and Compulsory) Education Act,

The ethos of transparency have such large public appeal. The developed nations have been lobbying transperany in all spheres including public administration and business. There have been a number of instances internationally – the Wikileaks spearheaded by Julian Assange, the US Government’s Telecom tapping brought out by Edward Snowden. Even North Korean Premier Korea Kim Jong II invocation of the need elimination of “factionalist filth” to augment his political position, are all reflections of such sentiments. In India counter-corruption has found Sify finally being brought under the scanner for corporate propriety. Such movement had been championed by various organisations, globally especially Transparency Intenational that publishes annually an annual ranking of nations in the order indicate the level of corruption. This has precipitated Right to Information movement in India and which has evolved movements such as the AamAadmi Party (AAP). This has for the moment had drummed up enough momentum to bring up a debate in the Parliament and even in the Delhi Assembly regarding formulating an act to prevent graft and corruption. Here lobbying and networking with civic organisations especially using social media to garner support becomes the area of operation as well as challenge to social work.Social networks and similar platform may be effectively used to challenge and moderate election manifestos and creating agendas for public debate. From its part, social work needs to self-introspect on its own area of operations, especially the NGOs to examine the element of transparency and accountability in the services being provided since these are largely based on public money.

In war torn nations social work has the onerous duty of brokering peace and mediating through conflicts. There are immense possibilities of working with IGOs such as the United Nations, international Red Cross or Medicenes’ Sans Frontiers (MSF) that work in such zones. Collaborationswith IGOs may be in the form of sourcing volunteers, fund-raising to support their activities – especially in emergency medicine, supply of drugs, food packets as well shelter. These organization also engage in peace times in preventive medicine especially in North East as well as in BIMARU States in combating Kala Azar, Malaria and Dengue. The same task can be had in the context of riot prone areas, especially in mediating peace in communal issues by constitution committees with representatives from rival faction who can work together and broker peace.

In India and Kerala specifically with the Panchayati Raj Act of 1992, there has been a strong impetus for devolution of power. Suddenly, PRIs are wielding more power with a capacity to influence decision making and negotiate on the control of resources. This has moved from strength to strength with women being give 1/3 representation and subsequently the ball rolling for a ½ representation. This has brought in a ‘women’ component into planning in LSGs, as a consequence of which, health, education, work and welfare have received a fillip in resource allocation. These have been clear venues for socialwork to dabble with. The transformation is so drastic over the past decade; from being a being a green army engaging in waste management, the Kudumbashree Mission is now into small entreprises and at present has piloted a Kudumbashree Taxi driven by women. All these projects are good models for planned social work intervention.

Geopolitics too have its strong influence. The non-state actors such as the WTO, World Bank or the Asian Development Bank have been players in determining the fate of nations. Post the 1990 where India ran into trouble with its economy in shambles, we witness the bureaucracy forced by the four PMs – V.P. Singh, D Chandrashekar, DeweGowda and SK Gujral, in quick succession pawn the gold in our reserves with the Bank of England to tide over the financial crisis. Following this India contracted with the World Bank for a dole out through an economic instrument which it termed the Sturctural Adjustment Program (SAPs). One of the conditions was the adherence to the patent regime, suspension of all social subsidies – especially in health, welfare, agriculture and education – as well as subjecting itself to a restrictive export quota system. Fortunately, Manmohan-economics at that juncture worked well in India, as a result of which India was able to leverage itself out and get into a position to renegotiate on lot of areas including patents pertaining to generic medicines. The same was the case of Brazil and Spain. Subsequently,post-2000s, we find anarrowing gap between Developed and Developing countries. During the late 1990s, the economic balance swung in favour of many once considered ‘developing nations;’ typically by the 1990s,UShad a trade deficit $3 Trillion with China alone. In 2013, when the DevayaniKhobragade, an Indian ME diplomat was arrested for not paying wages to her housekeeper, India shot back by asserting. We recalled Devayani, and sent the US envoy back. Subsequently, the special privileges provided to Western diplomats were revoked. All these things have consequences in terms of impacting on the social security of the vulnerable. Without subsidies the protection available by way of the safety net does into happen, leaving the vulnerable all the more vulnerable. Devising plans at the local levels become important. The same applies to funding agencies; foreign funds subsequently dried up with many of the developing nations themselves in economic hardship and being reduced to the level of not being able to fund projects. Resource mobilization at the local level becomes the prerogative of Social work. Such funding becomes all the more important since it brings in ownership as well as accountability.

Following the transformation of GATT was modified as WTO,Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) was initiated by way of the patent and process patents. Patenting initiated as a protection for legitimate rights of businesses to reclaim their investment in R&D. However, this was found to have a dire impact on the price and availability of goods, especially essential medicines. This could be countered by way of promoting safe supplying and by even promoting local indigenous medicine. The 1-2-3 Treaty India signed has been of bilateral implications; India had to comply to the nuclear safety standards against being embargoed. In returned we have allowed US to proliferate nuclear technology for peaceful means, as in the case of nuclear power plants.

Migration – international and nation – is yet another area of possible intervention. In the event of international migration social work has intervened by of educating potential migrants on the perils of illegal migration and get them to do undergo procedures for formal migration by linking them up with the government bodies; e.g. Ministry of External Affairs, NORKA-Roots in Kerala. Similarly, repatriation is another area of possible intervention given the increasing clamour at the international level for “sons of soil.”With the tightening of immigration procedures especially in the Gulf and strict norms along line of the ‘nikahat’ in Kuwait, Bahrain and Sultanate of Oman, many Indians have been force to flee the Gulf, often resulting in a exodus fearing stringent action by the Police in those countries. Local communities and governments have been ill prepared to receive and rehabilitate these repatriates. Possibility of engagement may be in retraining, start-ups in areas of their own aptitude, establishing IGPs. etc. Domestic migrants are a growing concern; there are challenges related to sub-human living conditions, communicable diseases, human right violations, spiraling crime-rates, inequitable payment, poor and unsafe working conditions resulting in occupational hazards and death, exploitation relating to transfer of money and travel expenses, inaccessibility to social security measures including health and public distribution system, etc. Hence, rehabilitation, starting community kitchens, negotiating health coverage and service, advocating with the law and police, initiating jagrathasamithis to assure safety and combat crime, training in allied trade, founding of cooperatives, group insurance packages, etc. may be areas of intervention.


Increasing national debt has been a phenomena of far reaching consequences. Nations once considered developed,especially Europe has been experiencing financial doldrums and are becoming increasingly cash strapped. On the international front economic austerity has been an imperative;the European Union has experienced economic austerity resulting in the Greece bailout package, Scotland warned from using Pounds if they secede from the EU, the breaking up of the USSR and establishing of the CIS which subsequently too disintegrated, the bringing down of the Berlin Wall forcing West Germany to focus on rehabilitating the former Communist ruled East Germany – are numerous instances where many developed countries have been eroded along economic bases. Since the 1990s with the Kuwait invasion and the subsequent wars ending with the political struggles – peaceful and violent – in connection with the Jasmine revolution enveloping Syria, Jordan and Iran, economic accountability and transparency have been brought to the forefront. In India and is some other countries such as India, Brazil and Spain, the initiation of SAPs economic austerity has been a logical occurrence. The above financial austerity has found governments looking for alternate funding. International instruments mandated the exploring new avenues of engagement such as Public-Private Partnership (PPP) -demanding transparency and accountability and abiding by the business model.

Added to these changes are the emergence of a burgeoning middle-class. Most of the developing nations will ride on the youth bulge in its population during the first three decades of the new millennium. This presents specific problems to nations and of relevance to social work. There will be increasing number of youngsters taking to higher education, but in adequate job opportunities manifesting in a high degree of unemployment. There isa “youth bulge” (Fuller, 1995) hypothesis that argues that ‘an excess in especially young adult male population predictably leads to social unrest, war and terrorism, as the “third and fourth sons” that find no prestigious positions in their existing societies rationalize their impetus to compete by religion or political ideology’ (Heinsohn, 2003). This is coupled with growing instability in sovereign wealth funds due to open markets, speculative trading affecting stocks, recession, etc. The US$ too has weakened and theUS economy had gone into recession by 2010. The largest portion of U.S. debt, 68 cents for every dollar or about $10 trillion, is owned by individual investors, corporations, state and local governments and, even foreign governments which hold Treasury bills, notes and bonds. Foreign governments hold about 46 percent of all U.S. debt held by the public, more than $4.5 trillion. The largest foreign holder of U.S. debt is China, which owns more about $1.2 accounting for about 8 percent of publicly held U.S. debt. Sitting pretty, right behind China, is Japan holding $1.14 trillion in U.S.

All these have too altered power base of the World (Flackers, 2013)

Similarly, we need to consider the change in approach to economic policy in China; China has adopted a soft approach and has imbibed Capitalism in it approach to production and export, but with it blended with Communism in terms of social policy. This pseudo-capitalistic approach had widened the gap between rich and poor (Flannigan, 2013). The city of Shanghai has been transformed to resemble the western world and harbours western ethos; many senior members in the Politburo too have been accused of economic frauds. Ironically, though not genuinely capitalist society, China suffers from the evils of the capitalist society, namely the destruction of environment and dehumanization of people’s moral. However, they have failed to imbibe the proper legal system which serves as the custodian for the stability of the whole capitalistic system (Ashara, 2012). There are whispers that there are internal uprising which have been forcibly quieted, which otherwise could translate into something as ugly as what had resulted in the India Town riots in Singapore. Managing equity, providing social security and negotiating justice with regard to such economic issues do present unique challenges to social work.


Technology has proliferated every sphere of life. A discussion on this line should be ideally techno-social. True to the very word, the World has undergone a paradigmatic shift. It is virtual and flat. As predicted way back into the 1980s by Toffler, human history, can be seen to fit patterns, shaping three great “waves” (Toffler, 1980); the firstwave happened when someone about 10,000 years ago, most probably a woman, planted a seed and nurtured it, giving rise to the “age of agriculture;” the second wave found expression of machinery (massification), the Industrial Revolution, beginning in the 18th century, forcing people to leave the peasant culture to work in factories. Just as the machine seemed most invincible, there are intimations of a third wave, based not on muscle but on mind; It is knowledge age, driven by information technology. With it came co-drivers for greater freedom and individuation. Collectivity gave way to individualism, the Personal Computer, mobile phone, and email addresses. Thethird wave brought in Increased interconnectivity, later taking forms of high tele-density, the internet, social networks, and we begin to live in virtual reality. Human relationship although so connected are virtual, distant and fragile.

The rapidimprovement in mobility,coupled with growing economic disparities,have triggered mass migration. The 1990s found MikhaelGorbochev championing the cause of perestroika(restructuring) and glasnost (openness) in the then USSR (Gorbochev, 2000). This lead to the breaking up of USSR, which was then, lurching under economic crisis. This had huge repercussions that lead to the opening up of boundariesworldwide to trade and economic cooperation. Perhaps, the most significant was the subsequent restructuring of the entity as the CIS and a good many states becoming independent countries, the fall of the Berlin wall and the ‘extinguishment of communism especially from the Western hemisphere. Organisations of the present dayboast of a multicultural workforce. Mass culture has become a reality. We have people looking for mass entertainment concerts, pageants, theme parks triggered by Disney, musical consortiums lead first by CBS, later Sony and now Geffen and Spielberg. But alongside these mainstream cultural entities, there have developed a vast array of demassified niches. The Usenet on Internet boasts 10,000 special interest newsgroups. Our personal telephones (cellphones) boast of FM stations dedicated to music, from classical to contemporary, blues to bangra. With the growth in cities and anonymity came crime and high chance for communicable diseases. To cater to the mass influx of workers into the urban areas new social mechanisms took shape; from old fashion inns came hotels and restaurants (rest-o-rent); from the friendly neighbour moneylender evolved the modern day bank; county and country stores evolved into supermarkets, hypermarkets and now malls and retail chains (read Walmart, Big Bazaar). In short most of the social institutions became institutionalized and business oriented. The new transformation was integrated with internet creating more distinct, detached structures – internet banking, e-commerce, e-groups and later social media sites. Man once considered gregarious and a ‘social being’ was soon highly individualistic, ‘self-centered’ being with his considerations and concerns limited to his family. From mass computing evolved personal computing (the PC), from mass transport (carriages, stagecoach) came personal transport (the automobile); orchaestras gave way to personalized music systems (the Sony Walkman, later the i-Pod); common assemblies and communication (the wire: telephone and telegraph) have given way to personal communication devices (cellphones). Man has started to live in his own self-oriented world and still further with the advent of the internet, in ‘virtual reality’. Social work has prospects of engaging with urbanization and resultant social disintegration, especially with issues of urban slums and housing, communicable diseases, drugs, alcoholism, crime and suicide.

There has been a paradigmatic shift in social ethos too. Families once joint, transformed into extended, and at present‘nuclearized’. Marriage has increasing being relooked at and being challenged by the possibility of cohabitation aided by individualism, mobility, anonymity and changing value systems. For that matter the US recession that escalated into global recession is attributed to the failure of the family system, ‘irresponsible spending’, greed for real estate and unwillingness of creditors, especially couples unwilling to stay together, to payback forget alone owning up their debt. The learning here, is simple; safe, stable families, generate stable income, resulting in better payment and a thriving economy.Depersonalisation and disintegration of family systemdestabilize the economy. Social work needs work towards to promote family values, a theme central to the very existence of the economy and the world!

Similarly work ethos too have changed. During the first wave, people were gregarious, lived and worked together to contribute to the collectivity. But with the emergence of Industrial era and with it individualization (individuality)collective action lost its relevance. In the past the most important mission for a Japanese manager is to develop a healthy relationship with his employees, to create a familylike feeling within the corporation, a feeling that employees and managers share the same fate. The concept of lifetime employment arosewheJapanese managers and employees both realized that they had much in common and that they had to make some long-range plans. In an era of information, loyalty is not regarded. Loyalty, typical of the feudal relationships of mutuality ischallenged by ‘hedonistic’ orientation, resulting in people becoming mercenary in their approach and relationships. No longer is the boss perceive as the patriarch, but just an employer who canhire, “boss over,” use and fire. Nowadays, organizations prefer HR to focus on personnel empowerment rather than personnel control.Modern day companies for that matter mostly engage contingent workforce and even outsource work. Social work in the arena of HR has the challenge of retaining talent, maintaining morale, developing reward and packages to suit the individual, yet again, subject to the economic and policy constraints of a company.

The present level of engagement has developed in itself a definite corporate work culture. Life has become ‘fast’ since we shot from the languid ‘bullock-cart’ age into the technological, ‘Mars age’.Life and individuals too has been digitalized (read the UID)! Long hours, on-site work, itinerant travel, errant sleep-wake cycles, junk food, sweetened carbonated drinks and an overdose of caffeine punctuated by a sedentary lifestyle have started to aggravate old problems and present new problems. The rapid evolution in technology has left products short-cycled creating job obsolescence, rendering those into the mid-life redundant; this has created tensions arising out of the threat of retrenchment. Businesses too have become more oriented on R&D, pre-requiring highly qualified and techno-savvy workforce. Communication patterns too have changed from being personal face-to-face into virtual depersonalized, affecting the quality of relationships; this is evident with the repercussions of Facebook and Skype on individual relations. Companies are challenged by the aspirations of a demanding, highly materialistic Generation Y workforce, which is more conscious of work-life balance, demands flexibility, etc. Their fastidiousness finds them demand training and even better infrastructure and perks, devoid of which they would quit. Women too have flooded the workforce having broken “the glass ceiling”. The challenges abound – infertility, marital disharmony, lifestyle diseases ranging from hypertension to hyperlipidemia, obesity, suicide, communicable diseases such as STIs and HIV, presenting opportunities for social work. Family counseling, health education, lifestyle and environmental modification, work-life balancing are areas of possible intervention. In order to prevent redundancy, it demands ongoing training and retraining in emergent technologies.


Given the above challenges emerging globally, it is worthwhile looking at the prospects and summarizing the same. Here are some trends and the prospects for social work

World War for Talent
There is a struggle for talent. Industry and the service sector having grown by leaps and bounds especially over the 2000s, experience a talent deficit. The graduates who emerge from various institutions are generally “half-baked” and of low employability(HR Capital Trends, 2013). Many managers who recruit lament the “rotten egg” attitude of the Generation Y. In this scenario the induction of the new recruits as well as training and retraining existing staff becomes an imperative. So is also retaining. Some of the strategies employed by Indian companies are ‘partnering with Campus’ and ‘catch ‘em young’ where an attempt is made to locate them in institutions and nurture them in areas compatible to personal goals of the individuals and the companies’ core competencies.Other soft strategies include employee engagement, job enrichment, and ESOP. Other areas of smoothing corner include counselling, negotiating,mentoring, training, educating and motivating them to deliver as per the performance standards. Apart from strategizing, social work may impart life skilleducationas well as soft-skill trainingbased on result oriented objectives.This may not still be effective in evading attempts at employee poaching (head hunting) given the possibilities of the internet and social media.

Staying in the “Business of Business”
Unlike in the past, HR now contributes directly to business. Social workers into HRM find themselves actively engaged in the linefunctions instead of the docile, staff function. Interviews especially with social workers operating in HR show that social workersdoincreasingly interact with clients through staff augmentation services and identify customer needs and demand specifications, formulating business objectives and translating the same by designing teams to meet the specifications, continuous monitoring and finally assessing the outcome by way of performance appraisal in which client feedback is a major criteria.The prospect is to develop a proactive workforce and multi-skilling them by way of continuous update and upgrade. It helps to customize the workforce to meet the ever increasing business demands.

Tapping on Social Recruiting
Social media have grown beyond mere platforms of communication, to become a way of life. The Gen Y are nurtured on social media while others are increasingly embracing social media. Recruitment too happens on job portals -Naukari.com, Monstor.com, etc. Given the pace at which communication goes viral, it becomes a challenge to control information that damages company reputation. The HR has to ensure the company image of being ‘employee-friendly’, ‘family-friendly’, ‘model employer’ etc. conveyed, tallies with the reality of working at the company. Thus, image management becomes an opportunity. Networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook may be used to target “exact skill sets” and a suitable platform for HR Marketing. Other prospective areas of engagement include moderating organizational culture, trouble shooting, recruitment, clientmanagement (as in the case of Sports Talent management) by inculcating professional branding strategies.

Managing Diversity
This being the age of acquisition and mergers, it becomes emergent that companies have to deal with two different corporate cultures and identities. Indian Inc. has been going global and acquiring companies in China, South Africa, South America, UK, etc. This can create the possibility of interacting transculturally. The bottom-line, companies are going to have diverse workforces especially in the face of having to cater for “niche skills” which are extremely rare. The opportunities include realizing the ‘writing on the wall’ and addressing issues of women-friendliness vs. harassment, developing and cultivating eco-sensitivity by addressing eco-friendliness, carbon footprint issues, as well as inculcating cultural sensitivity by way of encouraging interaction through cultural evenings – music and food. Companies are realizing the importance being adept in at least another foreign language – French, Cantonese or Arabic. Training in foreign language better prospects and even boost salaries by 33% with someone who is equally qualified.One of the challenges of HR from social work point of view is to make the workforce acclimatize with the cross cultural environment which is a mandatory for business success.

5. Managing Contingent Workforce
Work engagement are increasingly becoming contingent; it is either outsourced off-site or run by contract staff on-site to control the financials as well as to reduce liability. Individuals too, have fashioned themselves to work on contract as “freelancers “ or consultants. On the flip side, customers doing business with the company fail to perceive these ‘employees’ as outsiders. This brings in the challenge of monitoring contingent staff for practices or behaviours that may hurt business. Social workers engage in HR need to be adept with techniques to monitor work and quality. HR should set clear Key Process Indicators (KPI) and Key Result Areas (KRA) to the resources who are delivering solutions to customers. They should also be able to forecast demand based on global changes and adopt pro active recruitment & advance training methodologies. It is also imperative that HR balances flexibility with work and quality of work. Separation of the undesirable workforce in the interest of the company is also a very crucial yet sensitive issue. This becomes all the more contentious with a multicultural workforce and with women into the work force. Managing obsolescence and preparing for separation is a challenge.

6. Managing Mix
The demographic changes have progressively indicated falling birth rates and aging owing to longevity. On the other hand owing to the youth bulge in developing countries career-starters outnumber retirees. There are also trends towards “right-sizing” into at least three waves owing to the “dotcom burst” during the late 1990s and the great recession post 2010. Militant trade unionism reminiscent of Keltron lockout in the 1980s, prevail and even find manifestation in the form of the MarutiUdyogamandalGurgaon Plant violence in 2013. This calls for balancing the grey hair along with the “young turks”.Phenomena as mentioned require social work to engage in HRM by way of forecasting and recruiting, continuous training (HRD), maintaining loyalty videemployee engagement and job enrichment, and also accommodating a multicultural work force increasingly being feminized too. Through quality circle practices, HR has to bridge the generation gap to bring a right balance between the “experienced” and “energetic”

Managing Gen Y
It will be an “open talent economy” in the future, with much more open forms of cooperation than today. Increasingly, work will be undertaken in networks (Kushner, 2012). The new workforce borrowing heavily from Generation Y demands work-life balance as against status or pay that drove Generation X. There is falling loyalty, especially with Gen Y preferring to ‘live first, and work next’ (Heuer, 2013). For that matter lifestyle is major consideration in choosing employer (Deloitt Study, 2013). Even if an organization with its commitment for a competent workforce, Gen Y is bound to be obligated to their own needs (rather) than employers and maychose ‘non-traditional career path, they) fly wherever they want’(Lacroix-Bouchardie, 2012). The challenge here is to retaining real talent. Most of those who quit will just quit if ever asked, that ‘no one asked us to stay’. Here is the opportunity for employee engagement as well as the use counselling as a tool of social work. HRD in the form of training – organizational (induction), technical, and behavioral (continuous) – all hold significance.

On the positive side the Gen Y attitude “faster the work is done, the sooner you can devote yourself to other interests” implies a potential to complete work more effectively using new communication tools and information sharing
Boom in HRMIS/IT tools

Softwares are increasingly being used for the purpose of recruitment and talent management. In fact HRMIS and related tools are “experiencing a real boom,” (SoftSelect Study, 2013). There is strong prospects of Integrating software designing into HR curriculum and training prospective candidates in designing and testing of tailor made software and thereby crafting consultants or entrepreneurs. Orientation to students on using “Enterprise Resource Planning” tools is the need of the hour for those who are going to be engaged as HR professionals. Social work institutions giving specialization in HR should tie with ERP companies and execute the training as most the industries and companies have implemented ERP software systems to manage their resources. It would be a great idea considering that organisations are increasingly looking forward for candidates with combinations – dual specialization and triple main options.

9. Competition with MBA
MBA/MHRM are increasing preferred to MSW, giventhe advantage of having a business orientation. But experience and wisdom has occasionally blown the opposite direction, showing a reverse in trends. This is visible in Bangalore and Chennaiand even internationally where human relations orientation of MSW (HR) are sought after. There is great prospect to social work especially considering that companies are mandated to invest 2% of its profits on CSR if the New Companies Act was to come into act. Thechallenge is to seize the opportunity. But is social work caught unawares or at worst unprepared. This challenge may be tackled by integrating into social work curriculum new avenues of knowledgeand practicesuch as:

Training: especially in the area of soft skills and life skills; prospective employment as trainers in schools, colleges or organisations
Applied Research:need assessment studies and evaluation
Social Entrepreneurship: integrating business models in NGOs (CSR)
Project Management: need assessment, planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating projects
Counselling: handling emotional problems and decision-making; vocational choices and career planning
Eco-social Work: environmental impact studies, disaster management, psychosocial interventions; CSR may be a thrust area especially with carbon footprint becoming a prime concern


The world we live in has undergone drastic and irreversible changes. It all perhaps may be traced back to the years of evolution of human civilization. Yet, the last three decades have witnessed sweeping changes of such velocity that pervades all spheres – political, economic and social. These discussion does sensitise the reader to the complexities arising out of the interconnectedness of these phenomena as well as its multidimensional impact. Challenges that arise also presents prospect to social work. But the question staring the profession in the face is whether it is prepared to take on these challenges. The possible avenues that could spearhead the growth of the profession have been pointed out as – training, research, entrepreneurship, projects, counseling and ecology.


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Published in ‘educere-the bcm journal of Social Work’ Vol. X, Issue 2, 2014.

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